This post is part of our new “Hearing Loss is Not Harmless” series. This series of posts will walk through several common physical, mental and emotional health conditions that have been found to cause—or be caused by—hearing loss.
Hearing Loss, Alzheimer’s and Diabetes
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and also National Diabetes Month. We’ve talked about how hearing loss has been linked to both Alzheimer’s and Diabetes in previous posts, but we haven’t talked about the three conditions together.
By the numbers:
- There are 48,000,000 adults in America living with hearing loss1.
- There are over 29,000,000 adults in America living with diabetes2.
- Nearly 27,000,000 Americans with hearing loss are 50 and older3.
- Nearly 2,000,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year4.
- People with hearing loss have up to a 500% greater risk of dementia5.
- People with diabetes are 2x as likely to have hearing loss6.
But what does that really mean? Plain and simple, it means two things: one, that people with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing hearing loss, and two, that people with hearing loss are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
If you have hearing loss—or a close friend or family member does—you know that it impairs the ability to communicate in person and over the phone, even just having a basic conversation. At work and at home, hearing loss creates a disconnect in communication that can have serious repercussions on everyday life.
A University of Ferrara study found that, because of the impairment it has on day-to-day life, hearing loss can cause loneliness, dependence, isolation, frustration and even communication disorders if left untreated7. In this way, attempting to ignore hearing loss creates a negative spiral: the inability to hear causes you to become frustrated and avoid social situations, which increases the feelings of loneliness and depression and, in turn, causes you to withdraw further.
If you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply to you because you still believe hearing loss is just for old people, think again.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are the two most prevalent service-connected disabilities in U.S. veterans, affecting over 115,000 veterans and over 69,000 veterans, respectively8. In 2010, the number of teens and young adults with hearing loss reached 1 in 59, and another 1,100,000,000 (that’s billion, with a B) are currently at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss10.
Hearing loss is not harmless, and it does affect you. Be sure to ask your primary care physician to perform a hearing test if you’ve been experiencing signs of hearing loss. If necessary, your doctor can also refer you to an audiologist to discuss treatment options.
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References ((title & below: all quoted, heading 6))
1. Hearing Loss Association of America <http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss> last accessed 9/9/15.
2. The Centers for Disease Control <http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/national-diabetes-report-web.pdf> last accessed 10/8/15.
3. Johns Hopkins University Medicine <http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_aid_gap__millions_who_could_benefit_remain_untreated> last accessed 9/24/15.
4. The American Diabetes Association <http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics> last accessed 10/8/15.
5. Lin, F. R., Metter, E. J., O’Brien, R. J., Resnick, S. M., Zonderman, A. B., & Ferrucci, L. (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68, 214–220. Cited on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website at <http://www.asha.org/Aud/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/> last accessed 9/24/15.
6. The American Diabetes Association <http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/seniors/diabetes-and-hearing-loss.html> last accessed 10/8/15.
7. Ciorba, A., Bianchini, C., Pelucchi, S., & Pastore, A. (2012). The impact of hearing loss on the quality of life of elderly adults. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 7, 159–163. Cited on the National Library of Medicine website at <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3393360> last accessed 11/1/15.
8. Military Medical Research Journal <http://www.mmrjournal.org/content/pdf/s40779-015-0034-5.pdf> last accessed 11/1/15.
9. NBC News <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38742752/ns/health-childrens_health/t/us-teens-has-hearing-loss-new-study-says/#.VgWTPNNViko> last accessed 9/24/15.
10. World Health Organization <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/ear-care/en/> last accessed 9/24/15.